Chicago Basin Ski Mountaineering
Ski the most remote 14ers in CO!
Our 6 day Chicago Basin Ski Expedition travels to the home of the 14′ers in the Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains. Our objective for this one-of-a-kind trip will be to ski tour from the Endlich Mesa into Chicago Basin, then catch the D&SNGRR train on the way out. Along the way we will spend 3 full days in Chicago Basin, choosing the best lines to ski, some of which may include skiing off of Mt. Eolus (14,034 ft.), Sunlight (14,014 ft.), and Windom Peak (14,055 ft.), though many other worth ski descents are to be found in the basin.
This is a one-of-a-kind trip in Colorado’s largest and most remote wilderness area. If you’ve skied in Europe, Canada, and South America, but haven’t yet seen all that Colorado has to offer, then this trip is the perfect fit to get your spring skiing fix right here at home!
The guides were able to accommodate each of us and made sure we each got out of the trip what we were seeking. At the same time , they brought us together as a group, kept us energized and positive, taught us a lot, and kept us safe and sound. It was fun, beautiful, reflective, organized yet flexible, and a real adventure. – Larry S.
Chicago Basin Ski Itinerary
We meet early and board the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway for the ride to the Needleton stop and our approach into Chicago Basin. Approximately 6 miles of hiking gets us into the upper basin and our camp for the rest of the trip.
We have multiple options for ski descents in Chicago Basin including the West Face of Jupiter Mountain.
Today we’ll skin up and climb Mt. Eolus and ski down off the summit. An incredible 4,000 ft. descent takes us back to our camp.
Today we’ll head up to Sunlight and/or Windom Peak to assess conditions and determine the best descent. Alternatively, we may decide to ski the West Face of Jupiter Mtn (13,849 ft.).
Another ski tour in the Chicago Basin area. Options are many!
We’ll wake early and head on down the Needle Creek trail to our pick up location at the Needleton drop off at 11:45 am. From there the group will head into Silverton and enjoy a celebratory lunch before a shuttle back to Durango. What a trip!!!
Ski Mountaineering Equipment List
- Backpack: Internal frame, 50-65 liters. Guides’ pick: Varient 52
- Touring skis and boots: Skis with alpine-touring or telemark bindings. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Revert w/ Dynafit bindings
- Skins: for aforementioned skis
- Avalanche Transceiver: Guides’ pick: BCA Tracker 2
- Avy shovel: metal blade is a must
- Alpine ice axe: 55-65 cm. Guides’ pick: Raven Ultra
- Crampons: general mountaineering crampons. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Sabretooth
- Ski crampons: to fit your skis/bindings
- Harness: Adjustable leg loops to fit over layers of clothes. Guides’ pick: Black Diamond Couloir
- Locking carabiner: Pear shaped, wide mouth
- Belay / rappel device: ATC or similar.
- Helmet: Guides’ pick: Guides’ Pick: Black Diamond Vector
- Socks: Wool or synthetic ski socks
- Base layers: Polyester or silk bottom and top
- Mid-weight top : Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
- Shell pants: hard shell or soft shell. A pair with side vents are best. Guides’ pick: OR TrailBreaker
- Insulated vest: down or synthetic. Guides’ pick: OR Transcendent
- Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Furio
- Gloves: a pair of heavy gloves and a pair of medium weight gloves
- Down jacket:
- Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
- Neck Gaiter or Balaclava: optional, but nice to have
- Sleeping bag: 0 – negative 20 rating
- Sleeping pad (2): one foam one, one inflatable
- Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
- Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; with bottle insulators. Guides’ pick: Nalgene
- Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof
- Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
- Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
- Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…
- Down booties
Participants should feel competent and comfortable on “Black Diamond” rated runs at ski resorts. Participants should also be in excellent physical condition. We recommend that participants arrive in Durango at least 1 full day prior to traveling with us in the San Juan high country.
1Before Your Trip
Skiing and/or squats: do it. Cardiovascular activities such as running, swimming, and cycling are great to build heart and lung endurance. Taking day hikes with your loaded backpack at a local park will help train your legs for the mileage you will do in the mountains.
2Follow Up Programs
Durango, Colorado: Getting Here
Durango is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip.
Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Durango – La Plata County Airport. Multiple airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas. The airport is a 20 minute drive from our office. Many hotels offer a free shuttle pickup. Buckhorn Limousine offers a shuttle as well.
Driving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Durango. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.
- Denver, CO: 6 hours
- Albuquerque, NM: 3 hours
Hotels: Durango has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suite you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.
- Cost Includes:
- Guiding and instruction with AMGA Certified Guides
- Shelter, stoves, ropes, rock gear
- Avalanche probe, shovel, and beacon, boots, skis, and climbing skins are available for rent from our shop for an additional cost.
- Not Included:
- Hotel costs before, during or after the courses
- 5% land use surcharge
- trip cancellation insurance
- personal climbing, skiing, or camping equipment, or gratuities.
- Guide gratuity
- Registration and Cancellation:
- You will need to fill out our Domestic Registration Form, cancellation policy agreement, and liability waiver.
- Reservation Policy:San Juan Mountain Guides requires full payment at the time of booking. HOWEVER, YOU MAY CANCEL THE TRIP FOR A FULL REFUND AT ANY TIME UP TO 30 DAYS PRIOR TO THE TRIP START DATE. Inside of 30 days you may cancel the trip at any time up until 10 days prior to the trip start date retaining a full credit for a future trip, less a 15% rebooking fee. Cancellation within 10 days of the trip start date will result in the issuing of a credit for a future trip minus a 50% rebooking fee, so please consider purchasing travel insurance if you think short notice cancellation is a possibility.